The Central Committee of PCP, having met on October 29th 2017, analyzed the evolution of the national situation, and pointed towards the importance of the development of the mass struggle, and animating PCP’s intervention and its reinforcement.
I – The political situation and its evolution
1. The national situation knows new factors that weigh on the present and future evolution, given the presentation of the 2018 State Budget and the dimension of the tragedy following the forest fires and derived political developments.
2. The 2018 SB includes elements that are valued, inseparable from the decisive contribution of PCP and the worker and people’s struggle, which entail new steps towards the defense, restitution and conquest of rights.
This proposal, globally, is far from corresponding to the necessary answer to face the level of degradation of the country and living conditions caused by right-wing policies for which PS, PSD and CDS are responsible. And mostly, far from the demand the situation requires and the real possibilities to answer them.
There are still vulnerabilities and dependences to overcome, that constrain the economic and social development of the country and there has yet to be a policy that answers the country’s structural problems. The forest fires of the last few months are an expression of the weight and persistence of the policies of successive governments, worsened by the last PSD/CDS government, independently of omissions, errors and responsibilities the PS minority government cannot disavow.
3. The Central Committee of PCP denounces the maneuvers and pressures that CDS and PSD developing along a revanchist line, under the pretext and taking advantage of the tragedy caused by fires to recover their lost political space and erase decades of responsibility, as was made clear with the motion of censure presented by CDS in parliament. Independently of alleged reasons of dispute with PSD for protagonism, the motion of censure is part of a populist exploitation of a legitimate feeling of commotion and unrest in the population and an attempt to payback the interruption of the policy of the PSD/CDS government and steps given in the restitution of rights.
The Central Committee of PCP registers the recent developments in the political situation, with the intervention of the responsible politicians, including the ongoing changes in PSD, which aim to open the way to both a recovery of the so-called “central block” with references to “regime agreement” and “wide consensus”, and also the promotion of reactionary and revanchist projects. These developments put into evidence the need not only to reject such aims, but of affirming an alternative path for the Country, based on a rupture with the right-wing policy and the affirmation of a patriotic and left-wing policy that PC defends and presents to the Portuguese people.
II - Promote new advances, respond to structural problems, affirm a patriotic and left-wing policy
1. The 2018 State Budget proposal includes an important set of advanced measures that, although limited, are not negligible, and does not conceal a central issue: the State Budget is a budget of the PS Government, limited by its options and the constraints it assumes. Highly visible in the options of the fiscal consolidation strategy itself, with a deficit of 1% of GDP beyond the unsustainable criteria imposed by the European Union, or in the predominance of the interests of big business - PPPs, tax benefits, support to private banks, debt interest, among others - and are the reason for not going further in what would be necessary and possible to respond to the structural problems of the Country.
The State Budget Proposal consolidates a set of measures adopted in the past two years and incorporates elements of progress, with new steps to defend, restore and gain rights. To begin with, the State Budget proposal consolidates a set of advances achieved in the past two years, namely the elimination of the surcharge on the IRS [Income Tax], the full restoration of salaries, the 35 hour week, the holidays that had been withdrawn, and progress in the fight against precariousness in Public Administration and the State Business Sector; the restoration of VAT in the catering business to 13%, the reduction of the Advanced Special Payments by SMEs aimed at their extinction, the reduction of IMI [Municipal Housing Tax], the replacement of collective bargaining and pension complements in the State Business Sector, the additional increase in pensions, the increase and additional in family allowance with children up to the age of three, the cut in NHS fees, free textbooks in the first cycle of basic education, the unfreezing of the IAS (Social Support Index) and the increase in the taxation of high-value real estate.
In the restoration of workers' rights and incomes, in the introduction of fiscal justice criteria, in the increase of the real amount of pensions, the Budget proposal has, in all that is advance and achievement, the intervention of the PCP, its contribution, its proposals and persistence, as well as the strength of the struggle that over the years has been carried out by the workers and the Portuguese people.
Particularly significant is the updating of the "minimum of existence" - a limit that can mean exemption from IRS or its reduction for salaries of up to 480 euros and lower pensions carried out with the monthly tax collection - which will cover hundreds of thousands of workers and pensioners. The changes to the IRS with the creation of two new tax brackets, which will result in a cut in the 2nd. and 3rd. brackets covering 2 million and 800 thousand people, with a real tax cut in 2018, which can amount to 198.50 and € 293.80 per person. A cut which is not limited to these brackets since others will benefit from the effects of the elimination of the surcharge. As well as the reduction of VAT from 23% to 13% in the purchase of musical instruments.
One has to stress the new steps with the elimination in 2018 of restrictions on the rights of Public Administration workers: payment of overtime, night work, quality hours, plus the replacement of the full payment of the Christmas allowance. The establishment of the right to career advancement for the workers who have earned it, fully replacing the corresponding pay by the end of the legislature, it being necessary to continue to intervene so that the replacement takes place in 2018 with the coming into force of the State Budget.
We have to point out the increase in pensions and the new additional increase, taking yet another step in the recovery of the purchasing power of pensioners for which the PCP has fought through all these years. The measure of the additional increase will cover more than 1 million and 600 thousand pensioners - whereby one million will have ensured an increase of 10 euros and more than six hundred thousand an increase of 6 euros in the monthly amount of their pensions beginning in August 2018 - constituting the second consecutive year of recovery of lost purchasing power. It is important to stress that in 2018 the full payment of the Christmas allowance will be resumed, ending its dilution in the monthly amount of pensions.
The discussion on the details that will now begin will enable a more definitive evaluation. It is this work of joint examination that will continue until the day of the overall final vote. There are no budgets approved without their specific content. It is this work that the PCP will continue, contributing to limit negative aspects, consolidate acquired advances, take new positive steps.
The PCP will continue to defend, among other matters, the complete replacement in 2018 of the rights that have not yet been assured, namely in counting the time for career progression; for cuts in the contribution of workers for ADSE, SAD and ADM [health schemes for Public Administration, military and security forces]; for the elimination of cuts in unemployment benefits; for extending free of charge textbooks to the 2nd. and 3rd. cycle; to reinforce the additional measure of support for the long-term unemployed; for the valorisation of the family allowance; for the valorisation of long contributing careers; for measures to materialize the rights of people with disabilities; to bring down energy costs; for relief of IMI and the taxation of high-value real estate; for increase in taxes on very high profits, namely to increase state levies on companies with profits over 35 million euros.
The PCP will intervene to establish and implement public investment to ensure hiring of professionals and the necessary resources for the improvement of public services, the National Health Service, Public Schools, transportation and infrastructure, justice, and security forces and services, Armed Forces, science, culture and forests, areas that demand a response to the shortage of resources.
The scale of the national problems calls for a strong political intervention, which will continue, namely, in the demand to raise wages for all workers, to set the national minimum wage at 600 euros in January 2018, which is possible and necessary in social and economic terms, to fight precariousness, to end grievous norms of the Labour Code, to support the development of productive sectors and national production.
The Central Committee of the PCP denounces the ongoing blackmail by all those who have never accepted the restoration of rights and income of workers and who now seek to counter these measures with the necessary response to the problems posed by the forest fires. A false dichotomy that calls for the affirmation of national interests in view of external impositions and constraints. It is in the reassessment of the budget deficit limits, it is in the fight against the favouring of big business, in the defence and restoration of our national productive apparatus that the necessary resources for the development of the Country, the right to security and tranquillity of the Portuguese people will be found.
The PCP will continue to act to spare no opportunity to raise the living conditions of the Portuguese people and to respond to national problems, always determined by its commitment to the workers and the people.
2. The tragic fires that have devastated the country have exposed structural vulnerabilities, particularly in the food, demographic, energy, land management, infrastructures and public services, inseparable from four decades of right-wing policies pursued by successive PS, PSD and CDS governments, particularly during the last PSD/CDS government.
The Central Committee stresses that the dramatic situation experienced this year with the tragic and brutal dimension of forest fires, boosted by the extreme weather conditions and the lack of measures continually demanded by the PCP over the last decades and reaffirmed in the early summer, to which the PS Government did not respond, are consequence of the impact of right-wing policies in the rural world, in agriculture, in the forest, in the abandonment of the interior.
The consequence of a policy subordinated to big business, European Union's guidelines and restrictions leading to: desertification and depopulation of vast territories; regional asymmetries; degradation of the public structure supporting the forest and the rural world; degradation of mechanisms of fire prevention and fire fighting; promotion of the interests of the pulp, wood and cork industry and large agribusiness economic groups; closure and degradation of public services (including those of the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the forest); extinction of parishes.
The Central Committee reaffirms that the scale of the problems calls for a solid response that requires political determination, integrated measures in its approach and budgetary options, in a context in which the urgent response of support and compensation to those who have been hit by the tragedy cannot and should not be counter posed with the adoption of a structural response to the forest and its management and defence, means to fight and prevent fires. Measures to which the Government has not given the necessary response, namely the lack of an integrated vision and the lack of budgetary response, means and other resources to implement them.
Inseparable from the situation that led to the fires is the situation of extreme drought that plagues the country with problems that call for a quick response in various areas.
The Central Committee stresses that measures to defend the rural world and the interior, family farming, job creation and public services, national production and regional development are in themselves essential to improving the living conditions of the populations who live there and inseparable from the role of the forest and its defence.
3. The country's situation reveals the pressing need of an alternative policy. A policy that, while refusing a return to a recent past of worsening of exploitation and impoverishment, of abdication and national decline, has to free itself from the external impositions and interests of big business assumed by the PS minority government.
Portugal needs a patriotic and left-wing policy and the PCP affirms itself as the great force upholding this alternative policy that the country needs.
The current government's policy, its structural options and resulting constraints are factors that weigh heavily on the appreciation of the current phase of national political life.
Debt, Euro, rules of EU economic governance condition the Country negatively. The target of deficit reduction that the Government imposes on itself, limit the pace and extent of the replacement of rights and incomes that is required, and the necessary public investment.
Portugal expects a budget surplus of around five thousand million euros, not counting the debt interest. An amount that instead of being used for public investment, reinforcement of social functions, a bet on the productive apparatus, new steps in terms of rights, ends up consumed by the payment of an unsustainable debt that annually spends around eight thousand million euros in interests.
The Central Committee of the PCP stresses that while it is true that it was possible and not unimportant to stop the destructive work of the PSD/CDS Government and, at the same time, restore and uphold rights that were liquidated over the years, it cannot be forgotten that the structural problems of the country demand a different answer only attainable by a rupture with the right-wing policies and the implementation of an alternative policy, a patriotic and left-wing policy.
A policy focused on the development of national production, on the valorisation of labour and workers, on public control of strategic sectors, on fair taxation, on the defence of public services, on the renegotiation of public debt, on freeing Portugal from submission to the Euro , on the defence of national sovereignty and independence, to do away with the dependencies, delays and constraints that are present in national life.
III – Develop the mass struggle, foster intervention and the reinforcement of the Party
1. The advances already verified in the elaboration of the State Budget, in restoring rights and incomes, albeit in a limited manner, confirm the decisive and irreplaceable role of the worker struggle, which is now essential to consolidate the advances already achieved, and to further the defense, restitution and conquest of rights.
The Central Committee of PCP salutes the struggle develop by the workers and people, including several companies and sectors, namely PT, SOMINCOR, EFACEC, SUMOL+COMPAL, CELCAT, the commercial logistics and large distribution, and Public Administration, in particular the strike on Otober 27th, and underlines the importance of the struggles planned and already announced for the coming weeks, in the workplaces, companies and sectors, as well as among the populations, and appeals to all workers and people to integrate in the large national demonstration called for by CGTP-IN, for next November 18th in Lisbon.
2. The Central Committee of PCP highlights the importance of the Party’s own initiative and intervention, the strengthening of the mass organizations, of the intervention of democrats and patriots, of internationalist solidarity and the peace struggle.
In the Party’s vast intervention, we highlight the national day of information and contact with hundreds of thousands of people that took place this week; the initiatives taken in the National Parliament and European Parliament; the ongoing work as part of the new local government mandate. Pursing political intervention is necessary, namely the campaign of valuing work and workers, for a National Minimum Wage of 600€ on January 2018; for a general increase in wages; for the rights of workers; the fight against precariousness; actions on production, employment and sovereignty; and the preparation of the initiatives commemorating the Centenary of the October Revolution, in particular the commemorative rally of November 7th, at Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon.
The present situation and its evolution increasingly bring into evidence the importance of adopting measures to reinforce the organization, the affirmation of the Portuguese Communist Party, its identity and project.